The Secret Blogger: Dear PRs, I Don’t Work for Free

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The Secret Blogger

The Secret Blogger provides a platform for members to share and write about issues that they might not want to feel comfortable publishing on their own sites.  We provide an anonymous platform, and publication of posts does not imply endorsement from the Foodies team.

Today’s Secret Blogger is annoyed about the number of PRs and brands who expect bloggers to promote their products for free.

the secret blogger says…

I’ve been blogging for forever. I’ve had a number of blogs over the years but would often get bored with them, not truly interested in the topic or frustrated because of the lack of followers. Then, a few years ago, I decided to go for an entire lifestyle change and quit my job and focused entirely on being a professional blogger.

My family thought I was gormless. “But look at all the other failed blogs you’ve had!” they spat. And rightfully so. At the time I decided to ditch everything and focus just on blogging, I had had six blog failures under my belt. Not an easy number to overcome.

But I was determined.

So I worked hard. I mean I worked really hard. Just as hard as anyone else with a full-time job works. I spend no less than eight hours on my blog Monday to Friday and two hours on Sundays. Saturdays and most of Sunday are my days off. Just like anyone else. See, it’s a proper job. I average between 3000 and 5000 views a day and I regularly work with international brands developing recipes and doing product reviews and generally working my arse off.

I have put money into my blog and I have lost money because of it. I have had to budget quite tightly in the beginning when the work was slow to come and no one wanted to work with me because I only had 20 followers on Facebook and less than that on Twitter.

Today I have over 2000 followers on all of my social media platforms. The issue I have is when brands, businesses, PRs, companies and other bloggers see my success and try to leech off it. My followers follow me because of my blog. Not because of the cool products I get for free on a monthly basis. There’s nothing more annoying than when other PRs and brands get upset if I refuse to do anything for free. The number of times I’m approached each week to promote a contest or product is astounding. And about 40% of those come with no incentive.

Please tell me, PRs of the world, why in the hell should I just turn over my followers to you so you can spam them simply because you ask? I have put the hard work into my blog. I have earned these followers and it has cost me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to demand some type of compensation when we work together. Many PRs and brands seem to think they’re doing bloggers a favour by telling them of the latest competition or product review. You’re not.

There will ALWAYS be something for us to blog about without your competitions and products. You wouldn’t appreciate it if I walked into your shop and said, “I have a lot of friends who’ll see this product. Let me have it for free.” You would ask me to leave unless I gave you some money in exchange.

I’m not saying you have to pay me in cash, but some type of incentive would be nice. Please acknowledge that blogging doesn’t happen overnight. That followers don’t just appear on blogs. That we work hard to earn the trust of our readers and we work hard to keep it. We put hours in that we are rarely paid for.

So the next time you have a cool competition or prize, consider the blogger you are hoping to work with. Compensate them fairly for their time and their hard work. Don’t just assume that you’re going to get something for free.

 

With thanks to our secret blogger. 

If you would like to rant, rave or get something off your chest please contact us via the contact form, or email our Foodies100 Editor, Alison (Foodies100 at fleaenterprises.com). All submissions will be treated in strictest confidence.

Sally is the publisher of Foodies100, the UK's largest directory of brilliant UK food and drink blogs and bloggers. Every day of the week, we promote the UK's best and most exciting blogs about food and drink.

Discussion15 Comments

  1. this has always been a hard topic to cover and I think you’d done it justice but I would say that us bloggers are part of the problem too… we created this world that is so tempting to PR’s and brands and we are an easy ride for them but we are also suckers… think of all the blog awards you’ve been told you have the honour of being nominated for only to find out that YOU then have to spend 6 months begging your followers to vote for you and all you’re really doing is upping the profile of the hosts of the awards… yet still we do it!… I guess my point is that we all have to have a personal line that we’re willing to cross and we should stick to our guns and hope that our hard work will eventually elevate us above all this… great post… great discussion.

  2. I still, to this day, find views like this unbelievable, it’s a two way deal.
    First and foremost good on you for making a business out of blogging, it’s a tough gig but here is a question. Do you pay for all the products that you review? I doubt it. If you didn’t get ‘hassled’ by PRs and brands where on earth would they come from, especially if you have to budget full time. While I appreciate that not all PRs do it the right way, it’s their job to approach you beacuase you are such as success, sorry but that’s the way it is. If your blog was poor and had no followers believe me, brands and PRs would not be interested. Rather than telling PRs through a blog what they do wrong, just speak to them and have an honest conversation, they are human too and normally sensible people

    • Reviews don’t only benefit the blogger who might gain traffic and a nice product from them. The product is also introduced to a targeted audience, which represents potential buyers, something invaluable to every brand.

    • A balanced and welcome comment, hurray! I have worked in PR for years and with bloggers from the very early days. It’s so disheartening to see posts (pretty regularly) where all ‘PR’s’ are lumped together as some kind of unprofessional sleazy group with little or no respect for bloggers, simply out to get cheap coverage for their clients. Sure there are some PRs who are lazy and give the rest of us a bad name, but equally there are those who work very hard to develop long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with bloggers. I could cite many examples of campaigns I have worked on and enduring partnerships that have developed as a result. For me, it’s vital that we start with transparent and honest conversations about our objectives and that we build campaigns and activities Together.

    • But does it have to be? I think the point of this post is that PRs & brands will benefit whether they compensate the bloggers in some way or not. Why is it fair for bloggers to fall over themselves & kill themselves sharing product reviews or promotions for nothing? Just because “it’s part of the game”? Maybe if the game was extortion, sure.

      • I think bloggers should be rewarded when they work with brands. But personally (and it’s just my personal viewpoint) it doesn’t necessarily have to be cash.

        Maybe bloggers sometimes share posts (which let’s face it, is clicking a button, not “killing themselves”, let’s not be too over-dramatic!) because the product or information or event provided by the brand has allowed the blogger to create interesting content that their readers will enjoy? That the blogger will get increased traffic and social reach from?

        If something isn’t interesting and relevant and worthy of being shared in its own right, then I (personally) would question why the blogger is doing it – if it’s just for the payment, then blogs can quickly become quite soulless.

  3. Been a blogger for 3 years. Now working in the world of PR (for 2 months). But have to say I’ve experienced just as many spoiled bloggers with a sense of entitlement as I have experienced lazy PRs. There’s two sides to every story.

  4. If you’re getting paid to promote a product why should any reader trust your opinion?

    We all know journos get freebies all the time, but as they are also in receipt of a salary they are under no pressure to write anything nice or indeed anything at all. So in general the reader can believe it is an honest opinion.

    If you want to get paid to promote something there is a profession called copywriting. There you will have no moral issues and, quite frankly get paid better too.

    Of course to be a copywriter you have to actually demonstrate some skill at writing and not just at writing a diary

    • There’s a world of difference between being paid to write about something, and being paid to promote something. We often pay members a fee for their time in doing a detailed product review that incorporates video, or a newly-devised recipe, for example. But the bloggers are under no obligation to write positively about the product – they’re under an obligation to write to a professional standard and provide a comprehensive review. You should spend some time chatting to bloggers – you might be pleasantly surprised at how much skill some of us demonstrate 🙂

  5. A tricky topic, that’s for sure – but well put. I agree, if you want to promote something there has to be some form of compensation – it’s a form of marketing, and that is never free. That said, a blogger should have an editorial policy (either published or just in their head) and stick to it. If the brand/product doesn’t fit with that editorial policy then they don’t get featured. It’s as simple as that.

    It’s a two way street, certainly. Sure to make a living out of blogging you’ll have to do a lot with brands, but it’s really sad to see (and I feel I’m seeing it increasingly often) food blogs that will promote seemingly anything. Those representing brands/products should have the foresight to see that no one wants to work for free, but bloggers need to realise that they need a certain editorial standard – and to stick to it!

  6. I work in marketing / PR and am a blogger so this is my perspective from both sides:

    A PR professional’s role is to bring legitimate stories, products and information to experts in their client’s field. The experts / journalists will write about it because it fits within their niche, because they have a responsibility to provide well-rounded coverage of their field, and it is interesting to their readers. It is not transactional. They would generally not have budgets to buy coverage. It would be seen as unethical.

    Of course that means you are free to ignore them, to go off-message if you do write something, to ignore their launch dates, etc etc. Like journalists do!

    You say “My followers follow me because of my blog. Not because of the cool products I get for free on a monthly basis.”

    Yes, of course, on the surface of things. But I read the Guardian’s food section because its very comprehensive and they always seem to know what is going on, what the new trends are, what the new cookbooks are. This is because they receive PR pitches and freebies constantly. They are good enough at what they do to work that into compelling, authoritative content, which I love. In the context of traditional media outlets, everyone benefits from strong PR/journalist relationships. And money never changes hands.

    If what they are asking for is in fact marketing, ask for the marketing manager. Sponsored posts / very prescriptive posts would fall under the remit of “content marketing” and yes, these should be paid for from a marketing budget. It is not the same thing as genuine PR.

  7. I don’t know why this is even a controversial topic? Please show me an industry where people are assumed to work for free with a nice little pat on their head or “free stuff.” The medical industry? The fast food industry? Retail? Construction? Plumbers? Landscapers? How about newspaper columnists?

    And with no small amount of irony…..does the PR company who wants free labor also hire staff who work for free?

    I think the entire notion that a PR company thinks all they have to do is include a lot of exclamation points in their email, a few…”your blog is so great and just what we’ve been looking for!” comments, or, “we can provide you with exposure” completely outrageous

    I stopped working for free years ago. ALL bloggers should stop working for free in my opinion. You want access to my audience and substantial page views and traffic to promote your product or your brand? There’s a cost for that.

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